We rave about these prospects as “can’t miss” or “once in a lifetime” type players come Draft season. But every year, without fail, somebody taken in the first round fails to live up to expectations. I’m going to take a look at each team’s biggest blunder since 2000 to remind everyone to humble themselves when it comes to getting excited about your team’s first round pick. Some things to take note of when it comes to my rules for this list: First rounders only, the 2017 draft class is excluded since we really don’t know shit about them yet (Hell, Jared Goff was looking like a colossal bust after his first season. Look what happened there), and we are only considering a player’s success with the team that drafted them. So for example, Cedric Benson is a bust candidate even though he had a successful stint with the Bengals. He was drafted by the Bears, where he was awful. Draft position also matters here. The first overall pick’s bust status is going to weigh more than the 32nd overall pick’s status, even if the 32nd pick was a way worse player. I’ll also be noting some players that played the same position as the bust in question that were taken later who had much more successful careers to add salt to the wound.
Cleveland Browns-Courtney Brown-EDGE-Penn State (1st Overall in 2000)
The first pick of the millennium, Brown was a freak of nature athlete and, to be fair to the Browns, judging by the body of work at Penn State and his physical traits, it’s really hard to blame them for taking Brown. He was basically Myles Garrett before Myles Garrett. While Garrett looks like a budding star if he can stay healthy, Brown notched just 17 sacks in his 5 years with the Browns, never eclipsing 4.5 in a season. There were definitely worse players the Browns have taken (probably the most misses in the NFL since their revival in 1999), but Brown was the only one that went first overall.
Who they could’ve had: John Abraham-South Carolina, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila-San Diego State
New York Giants-Ereck Flowers-OT-Miami (FL) (9th Overall in 2015)
Flowers’ huge frame made him enticing to the Giants, however he’s been one of the worst tackles in the game, as he was rushed into the starting role before he was ready and it showed. Every Giants fan I know consistently calls for his head and it doesn’t help him that the Giants just signed Nate Solder to a huge contract.
Who they could’ve had: Andrus Peat-Stanford, DJ Humphries-Florida
New York Jets-Vernon Gholston-EDGE-Ohio State (6th Overall in 2008)
Gholston was a genetic freak but that didn’t translate whatsoever to the NFL, as he recorded as many sacks as I did in the NFL: Zero (I had 2 sacks in high school but I guess that doesn’t count). Anytime I see a rookie get their first NFL sack, I think to myself “better pick than Gholston.”
Who they could’ve had: Calais Campbell-Miami (FL), William Hayes-Winston-Salem State, Erik Walden-Middle Tennessee State, Cliff Avril-Purdue
Houston Texans-Travis Johnson-DL-Florida State (16th Overall in 2005)
A lot of people will want to say David Carr for this pick, but to be fair to the guy, he played behind what was statistically the worst offensive line of all time. Carr got sacked an NFL record 76 times as a rookie and that destroyed his confidence and he never recovered. Travis Johnson was an okay player for the Texans, but he wasn’t worth the 16th overall pick. He was out of the league by 2011. There really aren’t that many busts in the Texans’ short history (since 2002).
Who they could’ve had: Jonathan Babineaux-Iowa
Denver Broncos-Paxton Lynch-QB-Memphis (26th Overall in 2016)
You know it’s bad when you can’t beat out the 7th rounder your team took the year before for the starting job. We knew Lynch would need time to develop, but even now that he has an opportunity, the Broncos are already looking to move on. He’s only made 4 starts in his NFL career and has thrown just 4 TD’s.
Who they could’ve had: Jacoby Brissett-North Carolina State, Dak Prescott-Mississippi State
Indianapolis Colts-Bjoern Werner-EDGE-Florida State (24th Overall in 2013)
Werner was this big European guy that everybody was foaming at the mouth over with his potential. However he lasted just 3 NFL seasons and recorded just 6.5 sacks in only 16 starts before getting cut by the Colts. He was not picked up elsewhere.
Who they could’ve had: Alex Okafor-Texas, William Gholston-Michigan State
Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Mark Barron-S-Alabama (7th Overall in 2012)
Barron was a nightmare in coverage with the Buccaneers and lasted just 2 and a half seasons in Tampa before being shipped to the Rams. Since joining the Rams, though, they moved him to linebacker and he has been decent in his new role. At bare minimum he starts for one of the deadliest defenses in the league.
Who they could’ve had: Harrison Smith-Notre Dame, Coty Sensabaugh-Clemson, Robert Blanton-Notre Dame, George Iloka-Boise State
Chicago Bears-Kevin White-WR-West Virginia (7th Overall in 2015)
I hate calling guys who can’t stay healthy “busts” because it’s not always their fault, but White has played just 5 games since being the 7th overall pick in 2015. It’s just one serious injury after another with this guy. It’s hard to overlook.
Who they could’ve had: DeVante Parker-Louisville, Nelson Agholor-USC, Devin Funchess-Michigan, Tyler Lockett-Kansas State, Jamison Crowder-Duke, Stefon Diggs-Maryland
San Francisco 49ers-AJ Jenkins-WR-Illinois (30th Overall in 2012)
I was scratching my head when the 49ers made this pick (I had Jenkins as a 4th rounder) and he did nothing to dispel my confusions. Jenkins lasted just 1 year with the 49ers before being traded to the Chiefs. He was out of the league by 2015 with just 17 catches and 223 career receiving yards to his name.
Who they could’ve had: Alshon Jeffery-South Carolina, Mohamed Sanu-Rutgers, TY Hilton-FIU, Travis Benjamin-Miami (FL), Marvin Jones-California, Rishard Matthews-Nevada
Oakland Raiders-Jamarcus Russell-QB-LSU (1st Overall in 2007)
Russell was a can’t miss quarterback prospect. Then he held out almost his entire rookie season because he wanted a bigger contract, went 7-18 as a starter, ballooned to 300 pounds, and was out of the league by 2010. He’s considered one of the biggest draft busts of all time, certainly the biggest of this millennium.
Who they could’ve had: Drew Stanton-Michigan State, Trent Edwards-Stanford (2007 was a REALLY bad year to pick a quarterback)
Miami Dolphins-Dion Jordan-EDGE-Oregon (3rd Overall in 2013)
Issues with drugs caused Jordan to miss two entire seasons due to suspension. He only played 2 years with the Dolphins and has 1 career start. Currently a member of the Seahawks, he registered 4 sacks in 5 games last season so perhaps he’s turning a corner. But after the Dolphins traded up 9 spots to get him, they have to be fuming with the results they got.
Who they could’ve had: Ziggy Ansah-BYU, see Bjoern Werner’s section
Buffalo Bills-Aaron Maybin-EDGE-Penn State (11th Overall in 2009)
Maybin had 6 career sacks and they were all for the division rival Jets in 2011. Maybin lasted just 2 years in Buffalo and was out of the league by 2013.
Who they could’ve had: Brian Orakpo-Texas, Clay Matthews-USC, Connor Barwin-Cincinnati, Paul Kruger-Utah, Michael Johnson-Georgia Tech
Washington Redskins-Rod Gardner-WR-Clemson (15th Overall in 2001)
This was almost Patrick Ramsey, but Ramsey was taken 32nd in 2002 while Gardner went 15th in 2001 so Gardner edges him out. Gardner got off to a decent start, posting a 1000 yard season his second year, but he never eclipsed 700 again and was out of the league by 2007.
Who they could’ve had: Santana Moss-Miami (FL), Reggie Wayne-Miami (FL), Chad Johnson-Oregon State, Chris Chambers-Wisconsin, Steve Smith-Utah, TJ Houshmandzadeh-Oregon State
Green Bay Packers-Jamal Reynolds-EDGE-Florida State (10th Overall in 2001)
Reynolds played just 3 seasons and had a grand total of 3 sacks in his career. Really can’t say much about his career because there was hardly anything to speak of. Really bad look for the tenth pick in the draft.
Who they could’ve had: Kyle Vanden Bosch-Nebraska, Aaron Schobel-TCU, Derrick Burgess-Ole Miss, Reggie Hayward-Iowa State,
Arizona Cardinals-Matt Leinart-QB-USC (10th Overall in 2006)
It was hard to choose between Leinart and Jonathan Cooper (when you miss on a guard at #7 overall, you know you messed up). But the Cardinals have been scared to take a quarterback in the first round ever since the former Heisman Trophy winner, so he’s going to get the nod.
Who they could’ve had: Jay Cutler-Vanderbilt, Kellen Clemens-Oregon, Tarvaris Jackson-Alabama State, Charlie Whitehurst-Clemson
Baltimore Ravens-Breshad Perriman-WR-Central Florida (26th Overall in 2015)
Similar situation with Perriman as Kevin White with the Bears. He has a lot of talent and is very fast for his size, but health has been a major issue. Perriman’s only made 4 starts and has just 43 catches in his two years of actually playing (2016 and 2017, he missed his rookie year).
Who they could’ve had: see Kevin White
Los Angeles Chargers-Larry English-EDGE-Northern Illinois (16th Overall in 2009)
12 career sacks in 7 NFL seasons will not get the job done. English never had more than 3 sacks in a season and never started more than 5 games.
Who they could’ve had: see Aaron Maybin
Seattle Seahawks-Aaron Curry-LB-Wake Forest (4th Overall in 2009)
Curry was considered the safest prospect in the class, however he just couldn’t figure things out in the NFL. He has since become a college coach at Charlotte.
Who they could’ve had: Brian Cushing-USC, James Laurinaitis-Ohio State, Rey Maualuga-USC, DeAndre Levy-Wisconsin
Dallas Cowboys-Bobby Carpenter-LB-Ohio State (18th Overall in 2006)
A solid special teamer, but you don’t take a special teamer in the first round. Carpenter never made more than 3 starts in a season.
Who they could’ve had: DeMeco Ryans-Alabama, D’Qwell Jackson-Maryland, Stephen Tulloch-North Carolina State
Detroit Lions-Charles Rogers-WR-Michigan State (2nd Overall in 2003)
Arguably the biggest wide receiver bust of all time, Rogers lasted just 3 seasons in the NFL and had a grand total of 440 yards in 15 games played.
Who they could’ve had: Andre Johnson-Miami (FL), Anquan Boldin-Florida State, Nate Burleson-Nevada, Brandon Lloyd-Illinois
Kansas City Chiefs-Glenn Dorsey-DL-LSU (5th Overall in 2008)
Not gonna’ lie, I liked Dorsey so much in college that I bought his Chiefs jersey before his first NFL game. But he never amounted to anything with the Chiefs. He became a pretty good nose tackle with the 49ers, though.
Who they could’ve had: Pat Sims-Auburn, Red Bryant-Texas A&M, Ahtyba Rubin-Iowa State
Cincinnati Bengals-Peter Warrick-WR-Florida State (4th Overall in 2000)
Warrick never managed more than 819 yards in a season, which wouldn’t be awful if he weren’t the 4th overall pick. Had he been a 4th rounder, we’d be considering him a steal. However, that production just won’t cut it for the value.
Who they could’ve had: Plaxico Burress-Michigan State, Laveraneus Coles-Florida State, Darrell Jackson-Florida
Los Angeles Rams-Jason Smith-OT-Baylor (2nd Overall in 2009)
This very easily could’ve been Greg Robinson, as the credentials (tackle that was the 2nd overall pick) are basically identical. But Smith’s going to get the nod on the basis that he got beat out by the tackle the Rams took in the second round of the same draft (Indiana’s Rodger Saffold, who is still with the team to this day as a guard).
Who they could’ve had: Andre Smith-Alabama, Eugene Monroe-Virginia, Michael Oher-Ole Miss, Sebastian Vollmer-Houston
Carolina Panthers-Jeff Otah-OT-Pittsburgh (19th Overall in 2008)
Very few busts for the Panthers, giving Otah the nod. Otah was decent when healthy, however he played just 29 games in his 4-year career and was out of the league by 2012.
Who they could’ve had: Duane Brown-Virginia Tech, King Dunlap-Auburn, Geoff Schwartz-Oregon
Tennessee Titans-Jake Locker-QB-Washington (8th Overall in 2011)
Locker got off to a promising start, as he was pretty good in his first game, but he never got better. It’s also worth mentioning that all 7 guys picked ahead of him made the Pro Bowl in what was an absolutely stacked 2011 class. Locker retired after 4 seasons.
Who they could’ve had: Andy Dalton-TCU, Colin Kaepernick-Nevada, Tyrod Taylor-Virginia Tech
Atlanta Falcons-Jamaal Anderson-EDGE-Arkansas (8th Overall in 2007)
Anderson registered just 7.5 career sacks, never more than 3 in a season, and was out of the league by 2013.
Who they could’ve had: Anthony Spencer-Purdue, Lamarr Woodley-Michigan, Charles Johnson-Georgia, Brian Robison-Texas
New Orleans Saints-Johnathan Sullivan-DL-Georgia (6th Overall in 2003)
Sullivan played just 4 years in the NFL, 3 with the Saints, started 12 games as a rookie but 4 the rest of his career. He was out of the league by 2007.
Who they could’ve had: Kevin Williams-Oklahoma State
Pittsburgh Steelers-Jarvis Jones-EDGE-Georgia (19th Overall in 2013)
6 career sacks for a guy who at one point in the draft process was being slated as the #1 overall pick. He’s currently a member of the Arizona Cardinals but hasn’t played a snap for them.
Who they could’ve had: see Dion Jordan
Jacksonville Jaguars-Luke Joeckel-OT-Texas A&M (2nd Overall in 2013)
There were a lot of guys that were really deserving but Joeckel is going to win out because he was taken 2nd overall. Joeckel has been a turnstyle on the offensive line and is currently a member of the Seattle Seahawks, starting 11 games at guard for arguably the NFL’s worst offensive line.
Who they could’ve had: Lane Johnson-Oklahoma, Justin Pugh-Syracuse, Terron Armstead-Arkansas-Pine Bluff, David Bakhtiari-Colorado, Ricky Wagner-Wisconsin
Minnesota Vikings-Troy Williamson-WR-South Carolina (7th Overall in 2005)
Williamson was an absolute freak at the Combine, but those skills never translated to the NFL. He never had more than 455 yards in a season and was out of the league by 2010.
Who they could’ve had: Roddy White-UAB, Vincent Jackson-Northern Colorado
New England Patriots-Dominique Easley-DL-Florida (29th Overall in 2014)
Easley’s tenure in New England lasted just 2 seasons before he was traded to the Rams after numerous injuries and what many considered to be a “cancerous” personality in the locker room. It didn’t help that he only started 3 games for the Patriots.
Who they could’ve had: Timmy Jernigan-Florida State, Beau Allen-Wisconsin
Philadelphia Eagles-Danny Watkins-OG-Baylor (23rd Overall in 2011)
Watkins played just 2 seasons with the Eagles before he retired to become a firefighter. Never made a huge impact when he was on the field either.
Who they could’ve had: Clint Boling-Georgia, Daniel Kilgore-Appalachian State
There are going to be busts in every draft, however there are also steals, guys who slip through the cracks and outperform their draft slot. Tomorrow I’m going to do something similar and pick out each team’s best draft steal since 2000. Let me know what you think of these draft busts in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.